No indelible ink for overseas voters

·Kim Arveen Patria
An Egyptian woman dips her finger in indelible ink after casting her ballot in the city of Zagazig. Egyptians were voting in a run-off presidential election pitting an Islamist against Hosni Mubarak's last premier amid political chaos highlighted by uncertainty over the future role of the army

Filipinos who have voted from diplomatic posts abroad were shocked when their fingers had not been stained purple after they cast their ballots.

This, as the Commission on Elections confirmed that "indelible ink" is no longer being used for overseas absentee voting (OAV) which started April 13 in over 227 Philippine posts.

Election laws require the use of a silver nitrate solution to stain the cuticle of voters' index fingers after dropping their ballots.

The stain, which cannot easily be removed, is supposed to prevent voters from casting ballots more than once.

Related story: Birth pains still dog decade-old overseas absentee voting

"Walang indelible ink doon; tama pala iyon (There is no indelible ink there; and rightly so)," said poll chief Sixto Brillantes, Jr., who just arrived from Hong Kong where he observed the first two days of OAV.

"Wala namang kailangan na indelible ink na (There is no need for indelible ink anymore," the Comelec chairman said, noting that overseas voters have 30 days to vote.

"Lalagyan mo ng indelible ink... kung magfa-flying voter, 20 days wala na yung indelible ink (You want to put indelible ink... but if they intend to vote more than once, the stain will be gone by the 20th day)," Brillantes added.

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Militant group Migrante, however, decried Comelec's decision to no longer use indelible ink, which they said is one of the safeguards set to ensure clean elections.

Overseas voters were "shocked and dismayed to discover that the Comelec is not using indelible ink anymore," Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said in a statement Monday.

"They felt betrayed and short-changed, especially when Comelec Chair Brillantes said that the change was due to austerity measures because there is not enough funds for the OAV," she added.

Migrante further slammed Comelec for the use of plastic seals instead of security locks for the precinct count optical scan machines used in automated polls.

Such "arbitrary changes," Regalado said, threaten to make elections "vulnerable to fraud and endanger the very outcome of the OAV."

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